‘my friend ann’

by ‘her friend christie’

I have been blessed over the years to have gathered tribes of wonderful women friends. A few are from early grade school years, some when we attended Woodrow Wilson Junior High, others from MacArthur High School, several from my Millikin University days, and the rest I have assembled along the way from work, book clubs, and various organizations. I am grateful for their strength and passion and prayers (“Yes, Annelle, I pray!”). These women have propped me up when I’ve been at my lowest and stood along with me as I have stumbled into battles. We show up for one another, even when it is at its most painful.

My friend Ann is one of these women. I always refer to her as ‘my friend Ann’ to avoid confusion with ‘my sister Ann.’ I first met ‘my friend Ann’ during the second semester of my senior year in college. When I cast her in the one-act play I was directing for one of my final projects, I was thrilled she accepted the part. A real actress was going to be in my little old play! I was just a lowly speech education major with minors in English and theater. What did I really know about the world of theater? But her kind words of advice stayed with me, along with Doc Hopper’s (college theater professor) and Mr. Rueter’s (high school drama teacher), as I attempted to direct messy middle school and high school productions from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. 

Years went by before I ran into Ann again. Our children went to the same magnet school and when we saw each other at a meeting, we both did that “I know you from somewhere” gesture. Her daughter and my youngest son became good friends during those years, but Ann and I were still just acquaintances, exchanging a few nods and words at show choir competitions and concerts.

Our friendship didn’t really begin until I joined a book club of intelligent, thoughtful, and hilarious women. Throughout the discussions, Ann and I discovered we had a lot of life journeys in common: divorce, the tough yet joyful single mom years, remarriage to our fabulous men, a deep love of literature, and our teaching careers. We began to meet for walks where we would talk about everything, from our families to the state of our nation and the world. Eventually, we brought our men together and the four of us connected over shared dinners. We serve appetizers, tell stories, toast with locked eyes, laugh about mistakes, and cry over heartaches. Couple friends like this are precious, and I am grateful every day we like and respect one another so much. A few years ago my husband and I moved two hours away, but the distance has not diminished our friendship. With each text, call, and visit, these stitches find us stronger in our affection .

Back in January, Ann came down for a visit. We ended up looking at mother-of-the-bride dresses at a few high-end stores. I was comfortably ensconced in the cozy chairs as Ann modeled dress after dress. My heart filled with gratitude for Ann sharing this moment with me. She may never truly know how much it meant to me to be able to giggle our way through the piles of designer dresses.

Ann has introduced me to opera. She challenges my mind. When she and her husband came to my father-in-law’s memorial service and as I heard her beautiful voice sing over the congregation, I cried tears of joy that she was there for us. Just last week she delivered soup and yogurt to my mother who is now, like the rest of us, homebound. I love her stories. I adore her passion. I admire her talents.

Happy Birthday, dearest friend. This quarantined birthday may not be the one you planned, but it will be remembered. You are my heart, my love, my touchstone. You, Rock, your Dick, and I will toast champagne together soon, ‘my friend Ann.” I love you for all you have given me and all we will share together on this fabulous journey called life.

“Friendship…is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” – C.S. Lewis

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” -Linda Grayson

My Trip Around the Sun

by Christie Shumate McElwee

Just one more candle and a trip around the sun.”

“Trip Around the Sun”
songwriters: Anderson, Vaughn, Bruton
recorded by Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

Even at my advanced yet fabulous age, I love my birthday. Everyone needs a day set aside just for them, that one day when you get to wear the crown and wave your parade wave. Yesterday, on my 61st trip around the sun, I was queen of the whole damn thing. 

After a great massage with a new therapist (where I discovered CBD oil – wow and wow), I went out to lunch with a dear friend. Sonya insisted upon telling everyone we encountered it was my birthday, from the police officer issuing tickets on the street in front of the cafe to our brand new waiter to the JJill clerk where we went shopping later. She made me feel like a celebrity without the annoying paparazzi. I was tempted to don sunglasses and sign autographs.

Throughout the day, birthday texts and Facebook wishes kept popping up on my phone, reminding me of all the special people who have touched my life. I received phone calls from both of my boys, which are the best presents a mother really wants.

That night I made us my favorite comfort meal, homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I ended the night on the sofa with my husband near as we watched a few sitcoms.

Birthdays remind us of time and how quickly it ticks by, especially as the years advance. Just like that, I am no longer 60, but 61. But what those years have given me is the knowledge that I am not in control of it all, and acknowledging that has been a valuable and welcome gift. I am letting go of old resentments, ancient grudges, and unreasonable fears. I’m embracing the winters I have left on this earth, knowing my heart is messy but true. I am really attempting to see myself and others as humans just trying to do the best we can with what we have been given. I am living each day on the lookout for wonder, and spotting grace in every sunrise and sunset.

Happy Birthday to me and to the rest of you who keep me living and loving and breathing as we enjoy this ride on our trip around the sun.

“I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinning

And it’s good to know it’s out of my control

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’

Is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go.”

~”Trip Around the Sun”